Tête-à-tête: Finding new friends in Strange Neighbors
·13 min read
On a rainy summer evening, I met up with the NYC-based band Strange Neighbors. They came on my radar before, and had even played a Left Bank showcase but I wanted to get to know them a bit more. Their vibes are unreal positive, their music is really well done — especially for a band that just solidified their lineup somewhat recently— and when a band comes on the scene with this much potential, it’s your goddamn duty as a music journalist to dig in a bit more.
We started the interview by going around and having everyone introduce themselves, and say what instrument they played. I had just gotten up from a nap and by the time I got to Tradesman, they had already had a beer, so I had some catching up to do — both literally and figuratively.
Zach has incredible cheekbones, and looks like a young Adonis; he also plays guitar and sings a little bit in the background. On the album he plays keys.
Dana, their newest member, plays bass and hums, sometimes. Tracey speaks in a quiet, low voice and it surprises me that she plays the drums. People that I’ve met who play drums are oozing with loud personalities; it’s nice to meet someone who is a little quieter and lets the instrument do the talking.
Aidan says, “she’s the quietest member of the group.”
“I’m shy,” Tracey says.
Over the course of the night, I think it’s Tracey’s personality that comes through the most. But, I’ll just let you read on and not spoil it.
“ I sing and I write music, and I pretend to play guitar but not in the band,” Aidan says— she’s loud and smiley and her blonde hair and tattoos speak frontwoman of a band like a Joan Jett in training.
“What are you thinking,” Aidan asks Zach who is sitting across the table from her, deep in thought.
“I’m just thinking about how I’m going to answer the questions.”
And that’s how the interview starts.
“We met on Instagram,” Aidan says, getting into how the band formed, circa August 2017.
“I was in another band at the time, and she just found me somehow, we connected and would like each others photos,” Tracey says.
“We are both women musicians, and I wanted to start a band, but not with men, and we connected and it was like uhhh, and then we talked about it like it was a dream for about four months, and her band was so …”
“It wasn’t working out,” Tracey interrupts.
“So, then we finally met … we went to a bar in Brooklyn and the bartender looked like Justin Long,” Aidan continues.
“And he thought we had been friends forever.”
“You were also an hour later, so I was kind of drunk by the time you showed up. … and like a week later we started the band.”
“Can you smoke in here?” I interrupt as Tracey takes a giant smoke from her vape pen.
Left Bank, the narc.
“We had a guitarist named Bryan and he moved back to Texas,” Aidan continues.
“You don’t mess with Texas,” Zach chimes in.
The Velvet Underground “Femme Fatale” comes on the radio and as the band makes a heavy digression into Nazi haircuts and the Alt-Right, I go into a mini Lou Reed trance. Am I even a journalist?
“So I put an ad online …” Aidan continues.
“… in New York City Musicians Connect,” Zach says.
“And then Zach messaged us, along with a lot of lemons,” Aidan says.
“This was in January 2018,” Zach goes on. “Now that we are in our roles, it fits. It’s like you were making a shirt and you need four buttons on the shirt, and you have a pile of buttons and you finally find the four buttons and the shirt fits well.”
Dana joined the band in January 2019 — there was an ad looking for a bassist.
“I take credit for those ads,” Tracey says. She sounds like she should be a therapist or a cop, her voice is so commanding. I am totally seeing how drums are her jam.
“So I took a listen, I was like this is great, and I sent an email and auditioned.”
Pause for The Cure. The bar is really fucking me up with this interview — the music is too good. The conversation came back around diarrhea — no I’m not making this up— and an audition gone wrong, and here we are.
They’ve done two EPs and a couple of singles, and they are considering the new album that comes out later this week as their first full length. It’s 28 minutes of full-body explosive sound. They didn’t say this, I did. I just woke up from a nap, and they are so kind for dealing with this.
“I’m really excited about this one, we really like the producer we worked with,” Aidan continues, taking a drag from the vape pen.
“… Mike Dwyer,” Zach adds.
I found out that they recorded the album over two weekends and am blown away. Fucking professionals.
“The mixing and mastering was done over the next three weeks,” Aidan goes on. “It was the second time working with him and we figured out a lot … there’s always trial and error, which is what makes it fun.”
“A good amount of the songs had been in our repertoire for a while,” Zach adds.
The album is a mix of newer songs — some written three weeks before — and a mix of songs that they had been playing in practice for about nine months, but only played live twice.
“We just made three new songs right after we finished and I’m like damn these are great, they are my favourite songs to play onstage,” Dana jumps in.
“Compared to our older releases this is more consistent in sound,” Zach says. “But some of the songs pre-date Dana being in the band so the new stuff was all kind of born at the same time.”
“We wrote three new songs immediately after this album being wrapped and we just want to keep doing what’s next. We are really antsy about songwriting.” Aidan says.
Pause because instead of writing next I wrote sex, and made myself laugh.
Left Bank, the prepubescent adolescent.
“Thats the real secret of our band,” Aidan says.
“The sexual tension,” Dana goes on.
“The music is like a platonic orgy …” Zach completes the thought.
We are all in sync; Tracey probably thinks we are crazy.
Zach and Aidan both write songs separately, and then …
“I have a lot of shit and some things that make the cut and then I bring it to practice and everyone is like ‘oh yeah I can hear this’ or ‘ehhh’ and we kind go with that.”
Everything becomes collaborative after Aidan or Zach bring the lyrics to the group.
“So, what are your jobs,” I ask.
“I am a copywriter … “, Zach says.
Pause for Aidan to laugh.
“I am an Engineer for the MTA.”
Pause for Dana to wax poetic on the transit system. I will not say fuck the MTA right now.
“You like it?” I ask.
“I love it. I got to go to the top of the Verrazano bridge.”
Pause to discuss Saturday Night Fever, which I’m convinced they danced on the Verrazzano. Apparently, you can also bike across it during the Five Boro Bike Tour.
“I’m a sex phone operator,” Tracey says in such a deadpan that for a second I think she’s being honest. “I should be, I would make a lot more money. I’m a studio coordinator for a music school up in Connecticut, so I run the joint.”
Aside: Aidan and I have found solidarity in the fact that our voices are complete shit for sex phone operations.
“I work in entertainment insurance and I can’t talk about it too much. I insure music videos and commercials,” Aidan says.
“Now I’m going to ask a really fun question,” I say. “What is your dream job”
“Well, I would say playing guitar in a band would be a dream job but it wouldn’t be a job,” Zach says.
Pause to talk about how hot and adorable Zach is. Truly, the cheekbones.
“I would be an animator,” Dana says. “I had a job as an animator when I first moved to New York.”
“I always wanted to be a rockstar. Every since I was a really little girl, I wanted to be a rockstar” Tracey says. “I always also wanted to be a marine biologist. I love whales.”
“I love a good blowhole,” Dana goes. Honestly, can I just spend my life in their practice space?
“I probably want to be a collaborative songwriter but if not music-related, I would really like to be a detective like Olivia Benson, like work on sex crimes and sex trafficking. I wanted to be a detective since I was young, but I don’t want to be a police officer.”
Pause to consider getting more drinks and listen to Aidan discuss whether if Bruce Wayne would have just donated his money to Gotham, if that would have been more effective than being Batman.
“I consume about six hours of true crime a day .. when we were recording, I went like two days without watching true crime and I was having withdrawals,” Aidan, full of mystery.
The first show they played with Dana was the Left Bank show at Muchmores, which by the way, was insane.
“What was your favourite show,” I ask.
“The Pride show,” Aidan answers almost immediately.
“Queens Market was really fun, we had all these little kids dancing, and when we were packing up to go they were asking to get pictures with us,” Dana jumps in.
“These little girls were wearing our stickers … and trying to dance like us,” Aidan continues. “I used the word Barney.”
“Happy fucking Barney,” Dana says.
“Happy Barney birthday,” Aidan finishes.
They have their album release party at the Bitter End on July 20th. The album release is also a wig party, and the band is not-so-secretly hoping people wear wigs to the show, and dance on the stage.
“So that’s the first and the last time we play the Bitter End,” Zach, the prophet.
What’s next for Strange Neighbors? Other than their release show, they will be heading to Philadelphia to do a city-swap with Sex with Rollercoasters. They are also playing the New York City Marathon on November 3 — which is crazy.
“We try to network with bands … we love the community, and the people in it” – Aidan. “We are grateful … we work very hard and we haven’t had to work like [with] the Bitter End show, the booker reached out to us. So, we are constantly packed and weighing our opportunities right now and seeing exactly as much we can have before 2020.”
“If you could play anywhere in the world where would it be?”
“Red Rocks Colorado,” Tracey says immediately.
“What?!” Aidan shouts.
“When I was in college, there was a venue in a basement thing and the people who ran it thought they were really good and because they thought they were really good they didn’t let bands play, and I want to go back and be like yeah we played in your basement.”
Pause for Aidan to discuss how they could kidnap grown men to get this basement show, based on her forensic studies.
“I would love to do what Joan Jett did and get randomly ridiculously famous in Japan and play in a Japanese arena with thousands of fans and no one in the US knows what we know …” Aidan says.
“Strange Neighbors live at Budokan,” Zach finishes.
“I wish the UK would pick us up,” Aidan says.
“I would play the Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix Arizona, that’s where I am from. A lot of big acts come there before their big breakthrough. And they have really amazing burritos,” Dana says.
“They have burritos in the venue?”
“Yeah it’s Arizona, it’s the Wild Wild West.”
Listen to their single “Hilltopper” below and come back to the site tomorrow, where we will be doing an exclusive stream of their debut album.